Andy O'Donnell, MA, is a former freelance contributor to and also a an elderly security engineer who is active in internet and also network security.

You are watching: A packet analyzer is a program that can enable a hacker

Packet sniffers or protocol analyzers are tools offered by network technicians come diagnose network-related problems. Hackers use packet sniffers for much less noble purposes, such together spying on network user traffic and collecting passwords.

Packet sniffers come in number of forms. Part packet sniffers provided by network technicians are single-purpose hardware solutions. In contrast, other packet sniffers are software application applications that run on conventional consumer-grade computers, making use of the network hardware provided on the host an equipment to perform packet capture and also injection tasks.

* / Tim Liedtke

just how Packet Sniffers work

Packet sniffers work-related by intercepting and also logging network traffic via the wired or wireless network user interface on its host computer.

On a wired network, the information that can be recorded depends top top the structure of the network. A packet sniffer might be able to see web traffic on whole network or only a details segment; it counts on exactly how the network switches are configured. ~ above wireless networks, packet sniffers usually record one channel at a time, unless the host computer has lot of wireless interfaces that permit for multichannel capture.

Although many packet sniffers in usage these days space software, hardware packet sniffers quiet play a function in network troubleshooting. Hardware packet sniffers plug straight into a network and store or forward the information they collect.

Once the raw packet data is captured, the packet sniffing software application analyzes it and presents that in a readable form so that the human using the software have the right to make feeling of it. The person assessing the data have the right to view details that the interaction between two or more nodes top top the network.

Network technicians usage this details to recognize where a error lies, such as determining which maker failed come respond to a network request.

Hackers use sniffers come eavesdrop on unencrypted data in the packets to see what details is being exchanged between two parties. They can additionally capture info such as passwords and also authentication tokens if castle are sent out in the clear. Hackers are also known to record packets for later on playback in replay, man-in-the-middle, and packet injection assaults that some equipment are fragile to.

software Tools frequently Used in Packet Sniffing

Like many people, network engineers and hackers love complimentary stuff, i m sorry is why open resource and freeware sniffer applications are frequently their tools of choice. One famous open-source offering is ​Wireshark, previously recognized as Ethereal. Usage it to sniff your packets in the field, conserve them come a cap file, and also analyze lock later.

protect a Network and Its Data native Hackers utilizing Sniffers

If you"re a network technician or administrator and also you want to see if anyone on her network is making use of a sniffer tool, check out a tool dubbed Antisniff. The detects if a network user interface on her network has actually been put right into promiscuous mode. Don"t laugh; that"s the actual name for it, and also it"s the forced mode because that packet record tasks.

Another method to protect your network traffic from gift sniffed is with encryption, such as Secure Sockets great (SSL) or carry Layer defense (TLS). Encryption won"t protect against packet sniffers from seeing source and location information, yet it can encrypt the data packet"s payload so the all the sniffer sees is gibberish.

Any effort to change or inject data right into the packets fails because messing v the encrypted data causes errors that are apparent when the encrypted info is decrypted in ~ the various other end.

Sniffers are great tools because that diagnosing down-in-the-weeds network problems. Still, lock are additionally useful for hacking purposes. It"s necessary for security specialists to familiarize themselves through these tools so they deserve to see exactly how a hacker might use them on their network.

varieties of information Packet Sniffers gather

Although packet sniffers room tools the the trade for network engineers, they are likewise prevalent in some trustworthy antivirus software and also as malware in nefarious email attachments.

Packet sniffers can gather virtually any type of data. They can record passwords and login information, together with the websites went to by a computer system user and what the user perceived while ~ above the site. They can be offered by service providers to store track that employee network use and scan incoming web traffic for malicious code. In part cases, a packet sniffer have the right to record all website traffic on a network.

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Packet sniffers are an important because they limit malware and also are beneficial for troubleshooting network problems, but they should be used with robust defense software to avoid their misuse.